TRESHAM, Sir Thomas (by 1500-59), of Rushton, Northants.
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Family and Education
b. by 1500, 1st s. of John Tresham of Rushton by Isabel, da. and coh. of Sir James Harington of Hornby, Lancs. m. Anne, da. and coh. of Sir William Parr, Lord Parr of Horton, 3s. 1da.; (2) Lettice, da. of Sir Thomas Peniston of Hawridge, Bucks., wid. of Robert Knollys (d.1521) of Rotherfield Greys, Oxon. and Sir Robert Lee (d.1539) of Quarrendon, Bucks. suc. fa. 1521. Kntd. by 1524.2
Sheriff, Northants. 1524-Jan. 1526, 1539-40, 1555-6; j.p. 1531-d.; commr. tenths of spiritualities 1535, musters 1539, 1542, 1546, benevolence 1544/45, relief 1550, goods of churches and fraternities 1553; other commissions 1527-54; esquire of the body by 1533; grand prior, order of St. John of Jerusalem Nov. in 1557-d.3
Sir Thomas Tresham’s grandson said of his ancestors that they were ‘dignified with many noble offices and advancements’. Tresham’s own father made little mark outside Northamptonshire, but he himself followed a career reminiscent of his great-grandfather William and grandfather Sir Thomas but without their violent ends. Pricked sheriff within three years of succeeding to his patrimony, and put on the bench not long after, he combined local management with attendance at court and military service. He helped to suppress the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536 and Ket’s rebellion in 1549.4
Tresham’s first known election for Northamptonshire answered to his own standing in the county but was also doubtless assisted by his father-in-law and fellow-knight in 1539, Sir William Parr. In the Parliament of 1542, to which Parr was not returned for the county, Tresham replaced him as senior knight. The names of the Members for 1545 are lost. Parr’s death two years later and Tresham’s own Catholicism presumably account for his failure to be re-elected under Edward VI. After his proclamation of Mary as Queen during the succession crisis of 1553 he might have been expected to reappear as one of the knights for the shire in the first Parliament of her reign, when the senior Member was his kinsman Sir John Fermor, but he found a place at Lancaster, where his name is inserted in the indenture in a different hand. If his support of the Queen was not in itself sufficient to procure him a nomination, he could claim the interest of Edward Stanley, 3rd Earl of Derby, a distant kinsman and a fellow-landowner in both Lancashire and Northamptonshire. During this Parliament one of Tresham’s servants was granted privilege from an action for debt on 21 Nov. 1553. Tresham again sat for Northamptonshire in the two Parliaments of 1554 but did not do so in that of 1555, the year in which he was pricked sheriff for the third time. His appointment to the grand priorship of the order of St. John gave him a seat in the Lords in the Parliament of 1558, but within a week of its assembly he obtained leave of absence. Summoned to the Lords again in 1559 he perhaps thought it expedient not to attend and named Archbishop Heath as his proxy, but he may already have been a sick man as he died on the following 1 Mar. (not 8 Mar., as stated in his inquisition post mortem) and was buried on 16 Mar. with much pomp at Rushton, where a monument was erected to his memory. During February one of his servants, an Italian from Mantua, observed that Tresham would ‘remain a good Christian, as he always was at the time of the other schism, but he will remain in the country, and will observe the old rite secretly’. By his will of 28 Nov. 1557 made on entering religion he had provided for his family and had amongst others named Sir George Gifford and Sir Robert Tyrwhitt I executors and William Cordell supervisor. His 15 year-old grandson and heir, also Thomas, was later to become a leading Elizabethan recusant.5